Tony Curtis Passes Away At Age 85

Published 5 years ago by , Updated February 24th, 2014 at 12:27 pm,

Actor Tony Curtis Tony Curtis Passes Away At Age 85

Cross-dressing has been a staple of American Hollywood comedies since the days of silent comics like Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, but the late Tony Curtis – who passed away in his sleep last night at age 85 – gave what remains perhaps the most memorable turn of a man donning feminine attire in Billy Wilder’s much-cherished 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot.

Born Bernard Schwartz on June 3rd, 1925 in New York, Curtis developed a love for the film industry at a very young age.  He was injured overseas while serving during World War II, after which he returned to New York and began to pursue a career in acting.  He eventually landed a seven-year contract with Universal Studios in 1948.

Curtis began to gain critical notice following his turn as the press agent Sidney Falco in the 1957 classic Sweet Smell of Success.  He received his sole Oscar-nomination the next year for his performance as John “Joker” Jackson, a white racist who escapes from prison while handcuffed to a black man named Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier) in Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones.

His next role was that of Joe, a jazz musician who – along with his companion, Jerry (Jack Lemmon) – must go into hiding after the two witness the infamous Saint Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929 in Wilder’s Some Like It Hot.  The two characters decide to don women’s clothing and join an all-ladies band, whose numbers include that of the beautiful but flighty singer Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe) – needless to say, memorable hijinks ensue.

Some Like It Hot Tony Curtis Passes Away At Age 85

L to R: Curtis, Lemmon, and Monroe in ‘Some Like it Hot.’

The 1960s were a difficult time for Curtis, who struggled with drugs and alcohol addiction before he began a career on television shows like Michael Mann’s Vegas and the Roger Moore-starring series The Persuaders! during the 1970s.

Curtis eventually overcame his addiction issues during the 1980s and became renowned as a painter with a talent for crafting Matisse-like still lifes.  He also settled into a career as a writer and penned two works about his life – Tony Curtis: The Autobiography in 1993 and American Prince: A Memoir in 2008.

Curtis was an enormous talent whose artistic abilities reached far beyond that of the big screen.  He is survived by his wife, Jill Vandenberg Curtis, and seven children, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis.  We offer our condolences to his friends and family in this time of grief.

R.I.P. Tony Curtis (June 3rd, 1925-September 29th, 2010)

TAGS: Obituaries
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  1. WHAT IS GOING ON!? :( Everyones dying! *sigh*

    REST IN PIECE :( :( :(

  2. I liked his cameo on The Flintstones as Stony Curtis. Classic.

    • LOL, thats the first thing that came to mind when i heard he had passed away.

  3. I was very saddened to hear as I loved “Some Like It Hot”. “The Defiant Ones” was great too, just not as entertaining to me, personally. I’ve seen some of his artistry on canvas; the man was extremely talented…sigh.

  4. I will always remember him for his role as the rogue sailor in Operation Peticote. My condolonces go out to Jamie Lee and all the rest of his family.

  5. The Best of that Quality that came with that touch of class..charm…and goodness…..that is now unseen in Hollywood today..R.I.P…TC.

  6. “Some Like it Hot” will always be one of my favorite films out of the 50s and my favorite romantic comedies

  7. There have been others that played Houdini, but there was ONE man that was Houdini. The only thing Houdini also wasn’t able to escape from was Death. Thanks for the memories, Tony Curtis.

  8. “When the music stops, the Rest is silence…”
    Rest in peace, Tony…and tell Jack we said hello.

  9. Rest Easy Mr. Curtis .
    Thank you for all your terrific movies.
    We won’t forget you .

  10. actually my favorite movie with Curtis in it was The Great Race, where he personified the stereotypical hero guy circa the 1910′s or so. Co-starring Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk and Keenan Wynn. Wonderful farce film and Curtis’ self parody of himself of being all things to women was incredibly spot on. He could do drama and comedy, but I think he was at his best in the latter, seemed to fit his style despite his leading man looks.

    • I’m glad you brought up The Great Race which brought him on the screen again with Jack Lemmon, they were great together as hero and villain.

      I loved the pie fight!

      RIP Tony, also loved you in The Persuaders.

  11. So tarantinos editor just passed and while watching Jackie Brown last night realized that there was a tony curtis interview in the scene were sam jackson goes to chris tickets apartment. Weird i guess?

  12. Houdini, Spartacus…..I grew up with Mr. Curtis and was always one of my favorites….RIP Sir.